Samuel Pollard was born on April 20, 1864. The place was Cornwall, England, where his father pastored a Bible Christian Church. It was his father who led him to Christ and instilled in him a passion to serve the Lord.
Converted at the age of 11, he came under the influence of Pastor FW Bourne (who wrote the life story of Billy Bray), and it was during this time he felt led into missionary service.
At the age of 22 he sailed for Shanghai and there worked with the China Inland Mission. At the age of 36 he married Emma Hainge, also working with CIM. “There was much opposition. As they passed along the street men would spit upon the ground, and women would hold their noses…” (Twelve Mighty Missionaries, by E Enock, page 62).
Pollard’s early efforts were largely ineffective, despite his energy and inventiveness. In the early days he would beat a Chinese gong as he marched up and down the streets. Known as ‘the little man with the gong’ he attracted large crowds of curious Chinese but for six long years, he knew of no converts from his efforts.
Pollard’s initiative led to him being regarded as a famous ethnologist and anthropologist. In 1903 he was the first westerner to visit the Yi people of Liangshan.
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However it was on 12 July, 1904, that “the great harvest began” and with an unexpected connection. Ministry among the Miao people saw startling results. The Miao (also spelled Meow) were a people group from the Yunnan mountains in Western China who worshipped gods of wood and stone. Unexpectedly a small hunting party of Miao tribesmen arrived at Pollard’s door asking to be taught to read and learn the gospel.
From that day on a continuous stream of people came to his door that they might hear the Good News. Persecution broke upon the new-born Church. On one occasion “Pollard was beaten nearly to death”, and spent two months in hospital as a result. On recovering, he turned his attention to translating the Scriptures into the Miao language. This necessitated inventing a script – for they had no written language – and teaching them to read. The writing system which he created is known as the Pollard script and Pollard Miao.
Over the next eleven years Pollard won many Miao to Christ and planted churches in their villages. Pollard would venture on horseback to the remote mountain villages, preaching the gospel. Their hunger to learn brought more than 100 at a time to Pollard’s little mission station in Chaotung. They would start their lessons at 5am and still be reading at 1am the next morning. These natives crammed themselves with understanding of Christianity.
The New Testament in Miao was eventually published by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Not long after Pollard completed translating the book of Revelation he contracted typhoid fever and died.
Upon his death at the age of 51 (September 17, 1915), 1,200 mourners gathered at the burial service. In the June, 1996, issue of the magazine, Pray for China, Tao Yumi, who 60 years earlier had been a pupil in the school Pollard had established, was quoted as saying: “We were slaves before he came. He taught us everything.” And the article adds “in July, 1995, the Communist authorities restored his (Pollard’s) grave, and declared the site a national monument”!
Samuel Pollard had brought a tribal group of tens of thousands out of darkness and animism into the light of the gospel. He brought them out of ignorance to a place of education and dignity. He spread democratic thought, founded schools and developed education in China’s undeveloped regions. He promoted civilized customs, getting rid of harm from opium, and encouraging charity.
This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com
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